History: Peter Molyneaux has been around since he programmed a game called Populous Before there was Total Mayhem, Gender Wars, and Crusader, there was Syndicate, a fast moving, high-resolution, isometric perspective, real-time squad level combat game released in 1993 (Back in the gaming dark ages, when men were men and games were, well lets not talk about it. - Ed.). Going beyond these later game masterpieces, the Syndicate characters act, in true god game fashion, with a mind of their own. They engage troops who arrive in their vicinity with extreme prejudice, and their courage is without restraint, requiring you to intervene to save their lives. Now these little hyperactive operatives are coming back.
The plot sickens: The syndicate operatives acted on behalf of funded and armed warring mega-corporations. In 231 NC, just one decade after the world take over by several large corporations, who have maintained the peace through a long and uneasy truce. A virus, named Harbinger, was released into the computer system causing 50 years of world wide chaos and global collapse, which became known as First Downtime
Simultaneously according to certain apocryphal sources who shall forever remain nameless in the annals of the Church, a discovery in Iceland sends the world into another global conflict adding chaos to chaos. (Where is Maxwell Smart when you need him? - Ed.) Those who discovered the alien and mysterious, strange and wonderful, bold and beautiful (err sorry, I got carried away - Ed.) Icelandic artifact of epic proportions find at their disposal an arsenal of exotic and alien weaponry, (or was that common and countrified weaponry? - Ed.).
After consuming the country fried steak, the discoverers form the Church of the New Epoch, attempt to use their cache of weaponry to subdue the remaining mega-corporations and take over the world. The player can get religion and join the church, where the newly found religious artifacts give battle a new meaning to the corporate world, or they have the option of making free enterprise the one true god and starting their own private inquisition into the heresy of these upstart renegade religious fanatics, later combining with an American revolt as yet unverified by spurious sources.
This is all futher complicated by internal conflict within the largest mega-conglomerate, Eurocorp, who independently form, the Global Initiative Arm (GIA - not to be confused with GUI! - Ed.). The GUI try to stabilize and solidify their position with Crisis Contingency Action Teams (CCATs?) . But these elements now found themselves embroiled in a religious war. (Now that we have chronicled all the divergent theories no one knows what is going on. - Ed.)
Getting started: You jump start the game from the world map where you hook up your jumper cables to the country or territory you want to pick from the spinning world map, or was that map flat, just like the last time your car battery died playing this game. In mission information for the forgetful is provided by a convenient email system. (Which is not really an email system, but the simulation of an email system, kind like a game within a game. - Ed.)
Weaponry: All your favorite friends from the prior Syndicate return, like the handy mini-gun, and my personal favorite the persuadertron cum indoctrinator. I really loved going around indoctrinating every non player character in the game, making them player characters. At the end of the mission I had every character on the map following my group around. We would take rides together and all kinds of group activities, reminding me of the activities my family used to go on long ago. Sigh!
You can make all new weapon friends in Syndicate Wars, like the electronic virus ion mine which kills electronics in vehicles, the graviton gun molecular disrupter that scatters your molecules like marbles, the homicidal Cerberus identify friend or foe (IFF) drone who really takes care of your friends and enemies for that matter, and others for a total of over 26 weapons to play with. Just donít ask him why they call him Cereberus!
Game engine: The famous Magic Carpet returns to grace your computer room as the engine that could and does drive the game. Contrary to rumor, popular belief, and some of the articles you may or may not have been reading this is a true three dimensional game engine with full 6 directional freedom of movement.
Game play: Vehicles and robots now fly in Wars and Robots attack unsuspecting allied operatives. You get to kill people both innocent and guilty with no discrimination, save in capture or protect missions, and in spectacular ways such as burning in conflagrations, explosions that scatter body parts, rapid fire projectiles and missiles.
Selection of agent is by number key. Two or more agents group by mouse click. Mouse click determines the destination of selected groups. Syndicate Wars does not use ammunition, but drains energy from the energy packs that the little guys carry. Also new, Syndicate Wars eliminates the drug addiction of agents who now swear they have been clean for years. One power up gives both temporary intelligence and speed increases. You still can have your guys go crazy and kill everyone by double button clicks to activate the Psycho mode.
Artificial intelligence: Many of the operatives have to navigate complex town mazes and carry on entire battles without the intervention of the god-like game player, who may be out making a cup of coffee or a bag of pop corn or visa versa, so the bull frogs got out the bull and jumped to the task of making these little guys a lot smarter. No more getting stuck on buildings, the little guys navigate better. They also fight better, and according to some Bullfrog officials, they party better. So gird up your loins and get ready for a real fight. And donít forget humans, the most deviant, in addition to being devious, adversaries.
Missions: Over 50 missions play differently depending on whether you are of the true free enterprise faith or a New Epoch reformist. Combat is real-time, highly-lethal and continuous non-stop action from mission start to finish.
Graphics: High-resolution, texture-mapped, three-dimensional (3D) polygons overlayed with two-dimensional, sprite-based characters. The game map rotates 360 degrees and zooms in and out with the keyboard for clarity and to afford views of characters blocked by buildings. Rotation while fighting in 3D is quite a stretch, but it can and should be mastered.
Walking through buildings in the previous game was always like fighting blind. In Syndicate Wars transparent walls on buildings will allow you to follow your character and others while indoors. Real-time lighting provides shadows and lamps that give off light, which disappears when the lamp is destroyed.
Multiplayer: The four player game allows players to play either cooperatively or competitively from either the New Epoch and/or Syndicate side.
Steve Bauman, the syndicates are back: With Syndicate Wars, Bullfrog returns to the scene of a successful crime, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, pg. 26-28.